Wuogger Will Guerin has some thoughts on Athfest, covering Athens favorites like Reptar, New Madrid and Dana Swimmer.
Deep State – Little Kings Shuffle Club – Friday, 1 AM
It’s a refreshing contradiction to be able to see a group of individuals, distinct in personality and musical direction, run down separate paths but manage to accomplish a singular identity. Singularity derived out of a halved-personality, with the band divided equally between members of local acts Brothers (not biologically, but rather Ryan Gray Moore and Michael Gonzalez) and Little Gold (Christian DeRoeck and Taylor Chmura). And as far as I’m concerned, it’s the best of both worlds. While Chmura is laying down the catchy, pop-punk groundwork, Moore is busy turning his support role into the band’s primary centerpiece of personality as he colors the lo-fi energy with twists, turns and spiraling staircases. Meanwhile, Gonzalez burns with exhaustion as he ruthlessly pounds each snare hit into place, complemented by the low-key DeRoeck and his efficient bass lines. And in the right context, up there on the rickety wooden platform Little Kings calls a stage, with beer cans and ice being jokingly thrown at the band by an audience that was mostly friends, things catch fire. Crowd and band fed off of each other, and when Chmura fell to his knees and strummed away madly, no one could think of the band as anything less than rock stars as moshing and pogo’ing was had by all. Safe to say, my favorite set at AthFest.
New Madrid- Georgia Theatre – Friday, 11:15 AM
As the Georgia Theatre was filling up, soon to reach capacity, it was pretty hard to imagine who would want to go on after an act who was arguably the most buzzed Club Crawl artist on the AthFest billing (sorry David Barbe and Dead Confederate). New Madrid came out with guns blazing, cueing up the “raucous guitar fuckery” of “Manners” before diving into a rollicking and loose collection of their greatest hits (quote courtesy of Flagpole’s Gabe Vodicka). And when I say, loose, oh boy do I mean it. Those New Madrid boys must have partook quite heavily before the show, but the total glow on their faces and their boisterous stage antics were well worth the share of technical difficulties that could probably be linked back to a general lack of sobriety. With lead singer Phil McGill’s hair dancing wildly, the band swayed perfectly between their rootsy, Americana basis and their reverb heavy, shoegaze/psychedelic tendencies – combining their honeyed harmonies with noisey question marks of distortion and feedback. And yes, (do I even need to say it?) the crowd was awful, paying far more attention to the rumors of whether some people named Victor and Heather were getting back together than what was going on on-stage. Lucky for me, I got to (was forced) to eavesdrop on a wonderful collection of conversations that really had me wondering, “HOW WILL THEY GET HOME TONIGHT?”
Dana Swimmer – Hull Street Stage – Friday, 6 PM
It’s hard to say who has worked the Athens circuit more relentlessly than Dana Swimmer over the past year or so. And it’s great to see them still get excited up on stage, to see the facial abstractions that come over Jack Blauvelt’s face, and just to see them all smiling and not at each other’s throats. Friday saw the band dusting off classics (Oh Sista Oh), but generally drawing off of new material from their upcoming LP, whose existence and release date were ambiguously confirmed. The band had to compete with the old, “overt dancing man” (if you’ve seen him before, you know who I’m talking about) and a short set time, but who didn’t get a kick out of Jack when he took the wireless microphone out for a stroll just to hop a fence and walk along the pine straw of the church next door.
Reptar – Pulaski Street Stage – 9 PM
I had someone ask me if I thought that AthFest just pulled some homeless guys off the street to run sound on the Pulaski Street Stage. Harsh, right? But things did seem a bit off throughout the day on Friday. (Can we muddy up the mix anymore with some bass? I don’t know, but we can try!) Graham Ulciny (who sported a wig) didn’t seem to be thinking too highly of the sound engineers on hand either, and made his displeasure quite obvious to them and the audience (to be fair, there was an entire side of stage speakers that was popping and going in and out throughout a majority of the set). It kind of put a weird spin on a show that already felt pretty odd. Everyone seemed to be waiting for something to happen, and things warmed slowly, with “Rainbounce” proceeding without as much as a crowd surfer. They came eventually, and they came in droves, but it just felt wrong at points. Wrong and sweaty. Where was the magic? The setlist wasn’t what the kiddies ordered either, with much of their set comprised of their recently recorded second LP, and some of Body Faucet’s less appealing moments. It was fun people watching though, as the AthFest staff tried to maintain the barriers and people got into scuffles over their general proximity to one another. Maybe the supposedly called off encore could have saved the day? Maybe it was all the fault of the guy who gave the terrible introduction (I opened for you once)? It just wasn’t anyone’s day.